Alfred Packer: Legend of the First American Cannibal

New book explores the legend of Alfred Packer, who survived the winter of 1874 by eating his companions on a doomed excursion through the Colorado mountains.
Man-eater Alfred Packer, the first American cannibal
Man-eater Alfred Packer, the first American cannibal.

True crime author Harold Schechter’s new book Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal separates fact from folklore in the life of Alfred Packer.

Packer and five companions became stranded in the Colorado mountains during the harsh winter of 1874. Packer emerged alone after two months. He claimed the men had killed each other, and that he then turned to cannibalism, surviving on their flesh to escape the mountain.

When suspicions of foul play arose, Packer admitted to killing only one member of the party, because that man intended to kill and eat him first. Then Packer disappeared. He was apprehended nine years later, tried, and eventually found guilty of five counts of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

But no one knows if he was telling the truth or not, though recent forensic evidence seems to support his claims.

The description for Man-Eater:

In the winter of 1873, a small band of prospectors lost their way in the frozen wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Months later, when the snow finally melted, only one of them emerged. His name was Alfred G. Packer, though he would soon become infamous throughout the country under a different name: “the Man-Eater.”

After the butchered remains of his five traveling companions were discovered in a secluded valley by the Gunnison River, Packer vanished for nine years, becoming the West’s most wanted man. What followed was a saga of evasion and retribution as the trial of the century worked to extricate fact from myth and Polly Pry, a once-famed pioneering journalist, took on the cause of Packer. Man-Eater is the definitive story of a legendary crime—a gripping tale of unspeakable suffering, the desperate struggle for survival, and the fight to uncover the truth.

Buy it: Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal

Alfred Packer cannibalism memorial in Colorado
Memorial to Packer’s victims at Cannibal Plateau near Lake City, Colorado. Source: Wikipedia Commons

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8 years ago

His name is Alferd, not Alfred.

Jill Giddens
8 years ago

Cannibal, The Musical, Trey Parker’s student film project, is based on this story.

8 years ago

Was the movie ravenous based loosely on Packer?